Challenging the Narrative
March 15, 2018

Challenging the Narrative with 2018 Welsh Coaching Conference

By Paul Laughlin

I had the pleasure of attending an event with the theme of “Challenging the Narrative“. One of my favourite annual events, the 2018 Welsh Coaching Conference.

Chaired once again, by the irrepressible Dave Tee, this event continues to go from strength to strength. Dave’s passion & commitment is no doubt one of the reasons for that, together with the great team at USW Commercial.

My previous blog reports have covered the 2015 & 2016 events.

Sadly, I was in London during the 2017 conference, but this year’s meeting garnered an enthusiastic crowd.¬†From the hundreds, gathered in Cardiff City Hall, it was no surprise to hear that coaching in Wales is in rude health. Dave Tee kicked off the 2018 conference, by sharing some statistics on coaching in Wales, compared to other European countries.

I was not able to attend the whole event, as my wife was in hospital, but I’ll share the highlights from my perspective. Hope they encourage my fellow coaches & coaching clients…

The state of Welsh Coaching – punching above our weight

It was impressive to hear that little old Wales ranked 3rd largest in terms of coaching sector, across 51 countries. Only being beaten by England & Poland, is an impressive achievement for such a small nation.

Further comparisons of Welsh coaching scene included:

  • Aligned with other countries in skew to older & female coaches
  • Majority of Welsh coaches are newer to this (up to 7 years)
  • However, 77% believe they are above average competence
  • Most coach as only part of their role (5-10% of their work)
  • Rates are low in Wales, compared to England & rest of Europe
  • Welsh coaches are more likely to formally contract
  • However, less have formal supervision
  • Membership of professional bodies (like AfC) is also lower
  • Most Welsh coaches (83%) say client chose by ‘experience’

These facts prompted an interesting debate & poll as to whether there was a need for Welsh professional coaching body. Opinion was split, but clearly more work is needed to encourage professionalisation of coaching in Wales.

My own experience accords with this. Although most of my coaching clients are in England, Europe or USA – I have found Welsh businesses less willing to pay rates. I’ve also been surprised how few clients want evidence of qualification or membership of professional body. Clearly the ILM advice on how to choose a coach still needs to be shared across Welsh businesses.

Further details, of this research into coaching practice (in partnership with Henley Business School), are available here:

| Henley Business School

World-leading research, MBA, DBA, PhD, Executive Education, undergraduate and postgraduate programmes at Henley Business School

Challenging the Narrative – a new perspective on NeuroScience

The first keynote speaker was Clive Hyland. He has established himself as one of the most popular speakers at these conferences. Dave shared that he regularly receives requests for “more Clive“.

It’s easy to see why, as Clive is able to share from a real depth of expertise in NeuroScience, as well as coaching practice. Beyond the popular redaction, of Neuroscience as just monitoring activity in the brain, Clive shares a more holistic view.

Grounded in biological research, he explains the evidence for a ‘Whole Body Intelligence‘. Evidence that includes the heart sending more neural signals to the brain than vice versa. Research has demonstrated the existence of multiple centres of intelligence in the human body. These include the brain; heart, gut, circulation & breathing systems.

This understanding accords well with the theories of Gestalt Coaching. The need to consider the whole of an environment when coaching, including the embodied experience of coach & coachee. Perhaps we coaches would serve our clients better if we encouraged such a focus & didn’t imply the answer lay in an intellectual exercise.

More information, on how we are ‘energetic beings‘, and the implications of our evolutionary drives to survive or thrive, are available in Clive’s latest book:

The Neuro Edge

The Neuro Edge book. Read reviews from world’s largest community for readers. The Neuro Edge brings the complex world of neuroscience into everyday relev…

Challenging the Narrative – helping clients retell their stories

Our second keynote speaker, was the simply brilliant Prof Sarah Corrie. Visiting Professor of Positive Psychology at Middlesex University, Sarah is also a prolific author, academic, coach, therapist & supervisor. Her expertise, in use of narrative in both coaching & clinical psychology, is very insightful.

However, the most emotionally impactful aspect of hearing Sarah is her skill as a storyteller. Without any slides, she held the conference spellbound as she narrated her personal journey from performing arts to academia. Her expert use of pace, emotion, context & relatable struggles – demonstrated more clearly than any academic study – the power of our stories.

Sarah went on to explain the academic evidence for stories as a mechanism for us to deal with life’s ambiguities. She also revealed the benefit of inter-disciplinary cooperation. From the relevance of therapeutic work using ‘head verses heart’ perspectives, to what coaches can learn from actors.

This latter point was a surprise to me. But, as she shared the way leading actors, like Timothy West, relate to the characters they play, all became plain. So much show that she ha published research in collaboration with Timothy West, Prunella Scales & others.

During her talk she explained the important role of metaphors, identities & listening to a client’s own language. There were lessons from ancient tribes & the latest neuroscience. I was convinced, as to the importance of encouraging clients to share their personal stories, and explore possible endings.

Much that Sarah shared, on identities within stories, reminded me of PsychoSynthesis. This branch of psychology, gets little airtime within coaching literature, so I was delighted when she confirmed; that I was right to spot the connection. It is a powerful approach. One that I intend to explore further, perhaps in conversation with Prof Corrie.

You can find out more about her work here:

Sarah Corrie | My WordPress Blog

I offer a wide range of services including coaching, CBT and psychotherapy, and professional training and supervision. I also write extensively and my latest books, ‘Supervision in the Psychological Professions: Building your own Personalized Model Supervision’ (with David A. Lane and Mary Watts) and ‘Assessment and Case Formulation in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, 2nd Ed.’

Challenging the Narrative – Holding Space for our Clients

The final keynote of the day was delivered by Dr. David Drake. He is the international expert on Narrative Coaching & the academic who has led the creation of this branch of coaching work.

Unfortunately, due to my wife being in hospital, I was unable to hear David’s keynote address. However, only the day before, I did have the honour of participating in his half day pre-conference workshop for coaches.

This really was an eye-opening experience. All too often, those still mastering their craft as coaches (like me), can seek more & more knowledge. Believing we will serve our clients better if we can master yet another theory, model & questioning approach.

David encourages us to step beyond this. To let go of what we think we know & focus instead on how we are present with our clients. Drawing of wisdom from applied mindfulness practices, attachment theory & studies of human change. I was also delighted to see the use of poetry from David Whyte, whose reflections I have recommended previously.

It was a workshop full of experiential learning. Experiences which in many ways summed up all the learning from this event. There was too much to share it all here, but a few memories that stay with me are:

  • The warmth & openness of other Welsh coaches to collaborate in very vulnerable ways during this workshop. That reminds me of the research Dave shared at the start of this conference.
  • The benefits of listening to not just your head, but also your heart, gut & hips. That might sound weird, but it does give you opportunity to become aware of not just your thoughts but also your emotions, instincts & impulses. That reminds me of Clive’s evidence for Whole Body Intelligence.
  • Listening without seeing. Sitting back-to-back with a partner & listening to their story uninterrupted (a practice from Chile), was intense. It shows you how much you pick up through really listening & through touch. Such careful attention to their story, reminded me of Sarah Corrie’s work on helping clients reframe their stories.

If you ever have the chance to attend one of David Drake’s workshops I encourage you to do so. That day, David was quite unwell, but still delivered an inspirational session. I am encouraged to bring a great focus on being embodied & mindfulness into my work with corporate clients.

One surprise, on buying David’s latest book, Narrative Coaching” (2nd edition), was the very thorough academic basis. For a man who encourages us to let go & ‘be‘, he is very scientifically grounded.

For more on David’s pioneering work & to explore Narrative Coaching yourself, see his centre for change:

Narrative Coaching by founder and innovator, Dr. David Drake

Over 5,000 coaches in 40 countries are part of our global NC community. We are proud of the diversity in our community and the ways in which practitioners have adapted this work to their culture, language and client base. It speaks to the deeply human approach we take to help clients bring new stories to life.

Challenging the Narrative – how were you challenged?

I hope that debrief was useful & perhaps inspires some further exploration for your own coaching CPD.

If you also attended this coaching conference, I’d love to hear your reflections. Feel free to add your comments in box below or send me a link to your own review.